Never quite shaking off its hillbilly aura (thanks Billy), country music has been slow to take root amongst mainstream and indie listeners; but with the largest music festival in the southern hemisphere ready to saddle up for its 45th year, it’s time to explore the vast musical territory derived from this much-maligned genre, including a few of the many performers gracing the stages of the 2017 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
1. Wagons – Why Do You Always Cry
Wagon’s 2014 single Why Do You Always Cry (produced by Nick Cave alumni Mick Harvey) is a bombastic gothic anthem ,unlike anything we’ve heard since. Fresh from recording in the home of country (that’s Nashville, Tennessee, for those playing at home), Henry Wagons is our pick of the 2017 TCMF.
2. Gillian Welch – Look At Miss Ohio
One of those most treasured and critically acclaimed artists in her field, Gillian’s work on the soundtrack to the Coen Brother’s film O Brother, Where Art Thou? turned on a generation of music listeners onto traditional southern American music.
3. Marlon Williams – Hello Miss Lonesome
One of the most evocative voices you’re likely to hear, Marlon William’s stunning debut opens with a foot-stomping hoedown that opens the door to an eclectic album breathing in alt-country, folk and 1960’s pop.
4. William Tyler – Going Clear
Released on giant indie label Merge Records, William Tyler’s Modern Country is a sublime and wordless record focused on bittersweet chord progressions and Tyler’s singular finger picking style.
5. Emmylou Harris – Deeper Well
Embellished with U2 super-producer Daniel Lanois’ haunting touch, Wrecking Ball is delicate album that that weds the country queen’s soulful voice to a beautiful electronic atmosphere.
6. Ryan Adams – Bad Blood
With 1989, Taylor Swift managed what few have done before- a successful transformation from country starlet to pop music icon. While Ryan Adams didn’t manage the same with his tribute album, his version of Taylor’s Kendrick Lamar collaboration sits well within the country-rock end of discography.
7. Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave
Taken from the final album in the American Recordings series that produced Cash’s spell-binding covers of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, Ain’t No Grave shows the original outlaw at his defiant and commanding best.
8. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Country Girl
Rising above their influences, Carolina Chocolate Drops bring cajun rhythms and a heady gospel stomp on their contemporary take of a 1930’s string, fiddle and jug band ensemble.
8. Willy Watson – Keep It Clean
A constant visitor to Australian shores, Willie Watson’s take on American folk and bluegrass songs of old; executed with his extraordinary voice and musicianship; regularly transport his audience generations.
10. Kasey Chambers – Ain’t No Little Girl
One of the most anticipated elements of the festival are the starry- eyed buskers on Peel Street (Tamworth’s “Boulevard of Dreams”), hoping to follow in the footsteps of stars like Kasey Chambers. On her latest single (produced by Australian legend Paul Kelly), Kasey signals a slight change in direction that showcases her powerful new singing style.
As with most musical genres, if you dig deep you’ll find something wholesome: if you’d like to celebrate with a little country twang this Tamworth festival, there’s a huge variety of authentic country soul for both the head and the feet. Just leave Billy Ray to the amateurs…